STEPHANIE Gilmore sent a warning to her host of hungry rivals as she began her quest for a third straight world surfing crown by winning the season-opening Roxy Pro on the Gold Coast.
The 21-year-old said from the outset that a win at her home break would help set up her year and her confidence was soaring by the time she defeated Hawaii's Melanie Bartels in a mostly one-sided final at Snapper Rocks yesterday.
She came out firing to post a near-perfect 9.57-point (out of a possible 10) wave, while in poor conditions Bartels could only manage four waves, each worth less than a single point.
It took until the dying stages for Bartels to score a good ride, a 7.50-pointer and not enough to steal the lead.
Gilmore made it a key goal this year to take out the event which first launched her onto the surfing scene at age 17, when she was the Roxy Pro's first ever wildcard winner, but had not won since.
Next on the to-do list is the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach next month.
“You say these kinds of things and then you think 'Oooh, maybe I shouldn't have said that', but it definitely feels good to back up what you've said,” Gilmore said.
“(This win) definitely boosts my confidence, knowing that all the rookies had come out firing and still coming out on top ... that's what I need right now to let me know I've still got it.
“It's a new start for me and to win on your home turf ... you feel like a rock star.'
The Kingscliff product said it was more satisfying than her 2005 win because she felt she had proved herself coming off back-to-back titles.
Gilmore still has a fight on her hands this year and anticipates a highly competitive season after some standout performances by this year's five rookies on the world championship tour.
New Zealand's Paige Hareb and Hawaii's Coco Ho made it through to the semis their first event as members, while their three rookie colleagues all posted victories in their opening heats.
“The girls are really innovative and with the rookies on tour, it's a good year, it's going to be awesome," she said. “I can't wait to get to Bells and see how everyone finds their feet down there.”